A Sad, Sad, Day

February 24, 2011

...and only getting sadder.

As a libertarian, there are very few things I think our government does well.  I can only name two off the top of my head – and we still could do both better.  The first is field a military and the second is putting stuff into space.  We’re giving up one of those.

In the era where we have MULTIPLE useless bailouts that wastes trillions and give $787 BILLION dollars to the exact same banks and institutions that put our country on the brink of economic collapse, the books are already cooked.  We go further into debt by trillions of dollars every year with the interest payments alone to our debtors reaching into the hundreds of billions.  We’re not doing the basics like fixing the tax code, health-care, and social security programs…I think we can at least afford to give NASA a few billion dollars more.  God knows, it’s a better way to spend tax-payer money.  At least you get jobs, science, technology, and achievement in return.

To that end, and to get to my point, the space shuttle Discovery made its final launch today – the 39th of its own and the 133rd of the space shuttle program.  For all of the life I can remember, (I’m 30) the space shuttle program has been there.  The first impression it made on me was when I was 5 years old and Challenger blew up.  I really didn’t fully understand what was going on – but I remember that ‘our’ spaceship blew up and that I was sad because everyone around me was sad.  As sad as that day was, I bet those 7 souls are sad because much of their legacy is ending with no real next step in sight.  Our solution now is to use antiquated Russian junk to haul our best to merely low earth orbit at the International Space Station.

   Funding for NASA is one of FEW things I truly believe that government needs to take an active role in.  Yes, it may go against every libertarian fiber in my body, but hear me out…just like our national defense…there are no other entities that can provide the resources to do the job adequately and this is a quest just as American as our guns and apple pie.  It is literally in our history and our DNA as Americans.  It was manifest destiny for our forefathers to head west and forge new lives on the frontier – NASA ia the embodiment of leading the way to do the same on the next frontiers and create tomorrow’s tomorrow jobs and technology.

 The Apollo Project was the greatest feat in the history of man-kind; its crowning achievement – putting a man on the moon, victoriously accomplished as President Kennedy wished before the end of the 1960’s.  Those were the glory years.  Today, we have cancelled multiple next-generation programs that were supposed to replace American space flight after the space shuttles retired.  I can name two – the X33, the real next step as a reusable space plane that looked somewhat like the space shuttle, and the Orion spacecraft – a 21st century rehash of Apollo.  Instead we have neither with no plan, money, or program to fill a hole for what looks like to be a decade or more because we see NASA’s budget cut back year after year.  Even with the space shuttle and our currently technology of today, we couldn’t go back to the moon even if we wanted.  Tha was what the Orion spacecraft was supposed to be for – to build a modern version of the technology that we had 42 years ago!  We used vacuum tubes to get to the moon and we didn’t develop the technology further.  You can have every self-parking Lexus, iPhone, and flat panel HDTV that you want – but that crap doesn’t get you to the moon.  We have done nothing in that nearly half century span of time to move mankind forward for its next feat…and our best chance, NASA, keeps getting cut off at the knees.

Look at how the space race via the Apollo Project changed our lives by changing our outlook on the Cold War and gave us new technologies never dreamed of.  All done on a wish to beat the Russians, so the US government spent the money to invent these new technologies so that we could get to the moon.  The Apollo Project was materially expensive, but what we paid was an investment for this country’s future – it was money well spent.  All I am asking is to reward such success.

Yes, this country is broke.  Yes, there are too damn many things wrong out there that take precedence…but they are easily fixed by a capable government and a disciplined populace.  Unfortunately we have neither.  However, that is no excuse to throw the good out with the bad.  I truly believe that the expense and budget it would take to make a true 21st century space vehicle, return to the moon, and then go to Mars and beyond would follow the exact same formula of being materially expensive, but have an amazing return on investment…and the catch is, it wouldn’t even be an extra $10 billion a year – a drop in the bucket compared to the trillions of dollars our government wastes every year.  What we could learn, invent, and discover as a nation (and species) would be far greater than we realize.  Its a nearly infinite universe out there – but we would have to take the second step to start tobegin to truly tap the knowledge that could be made out there. 

Maybe I’m a dreamer.  Maybe I believe in a better United States of America where we fund great projects not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard and that makes them worth doing.

– G.S.

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Repent! The Day of Reckoning IS At Hand!

February 19, 2011

"Look at me...you think I'm joking when I say 'a modest proposal'?!?"

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 My roots are in Jersey.  It’s where my family is from, my wife’s father and his family is from – but we all call ourselves Virginians now because we left the insanity that is known as The Garden State.  I unapologetically call it The Armpit Of The Union.  High taxes, they generally hate your gun, filthy cities, liberal as Hell, and you can’t even pump your own gas (the ESL guy has to do it for you so he can have a job).  Jersey basically is pissed that NYC is right across the river and they take it out on its citizens.

   For whatever reason, the state was blessed with Chris Christie however, and possibly just in time to save it from itself.  For all the semi unfair bile I just regurgitated against the state, it’s still America and I am a fan of its governor.  He sees the trainwreck his state is moments before its going to happen (but still far ahead of everyone else) and he has the balls to try and throw the brake before its too late.  Sure, there’s wailing and gnashing of teeth in Trenton – and for good reason.  He’s probably going to have to raise taxes.  I’m not a fan, and neither is he – but he realizes that to save this patient, there is going to have to be more pain…but he also recognizes that he doesn’t have a revenue problem…he’s got a spending problem.  Hence the spending freezes, the program cuts, and most famously – his head on fight with the public sector union and their entitlement programs…and his isn’t the only state.  You see the drama unfolding in Wisconsin as we speak.  The same story can be repeated across this country and generally the more populous the state and liberal your legislature is, the bigger the problem you have – hence why Christie and NJ are the canaries in the coal mine.

  Almost 2 months to the day, 60 Minutes did a story on this brewing crisis…and that is what this is, this thing is brewing as it’s just the beginning.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7166293n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea.10

  What do you think is going to happen to all of those whining public sector unions when the state goes tits up on it and declares bankruptcy?  I don’t have a pension as management at a small, manufacturing plant even though I am a manufacturer whose business actually creates high paying jobs and pays taxes to the government.  The best I can do is having a matching 401K and not get raked over the coals on my health insurance as a young person with a kid on my plan.  Thank God my wife has her own plan at her work – things really jump up for a family plan.  But I don’t complain – that is the reality of working in America today.  The other side of the reality is that the taxes FROM the my workplace go to pay for a state employee who is probably living a bit too high on the hog with a pension and life-time health-care benefits because they got a good deal from the state because of their collective bargaining when things were better.  They work for an inefficient bureaucracy that we give too much money to for too little result – and they want to have life-time retirement plans for being a part of a business like that!  That my friends, is the problem with more government – its easy to spend SOMEONE ELSE’s money – to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher.  God forbid that government go back to the state unions with their sweetheart deals and say ‘the times have changed, we’ve made too many promises to too many people and created too much inefficient bureaucracy – something has to give because we simply don’t have the money anymore’.

  What the unions don’t get is that they can bitch and moan and try to squeeze every last dime out of the government, but it will drive the government to insolvency and then they could get nothing and it certainly will be less than any deal struck to try and head off the mess; because once you’re insolvent, all the cards are on the table then whether you want them or not.  Between these 50 states that make this great country, there is an estimated 1 TRILLION+ dollar shortfall (that’s from Pew Research) and that is what they can see before you actually get into the cooked books.  You and I both know that if citizens or businesses ran their personal budgets like the state and federal government does, then we’d be both bankrupt and in jail.

  If we don’t get more Chris Christies then some states will have to declare themselves insolvent.  I bet a lot already are, they just won’t admit it.   The states just don’t have the money and the obvious sin of the past that is coming back to haunt them are the juicy public sector entitlements because its easy to pass the buck on to future generations.  Well, they’ve been doing it via bad deals for over 50 years and now the day of reckoning is at hand.  No more high property taxes to leverage against and paper over the mess – the tide has receeded and the state governments have been found to be naked!

Yes, there has been talk about a federal bailout.   ANOTHER expenditure of money we don’t have that doesn’t even get to root of the problem – so you could have similar problems in future years.   That’s going to go over as well as a turd in the punchbowl in DC and the reality of the matter is that the The House of Representatives will never pass it, and that is because of who the citizenry has elected there for the time being.   You want to talk about people in the streets?  How do you think I’ll feel because myself and my kids (and grandkids) have to pay for those bailouts because New Yorkers, Californians, and Wisconsinites think they are entitled to their dinosauric yet juicy public sector programs? 

 It’s another form of a redistribution of wealth and socialism at its worst.  Your states made the bed they lie in, don’t pass the buck the to rest of the country.  Let your states and pensions fail, then you’ll wish you would have worked with the Chris Christies out there.  I’m telling you, repent before its too late…

– G.S.


Glimmer of Hope

February 8, 2011

...ech...what they do in my name sometimes....

Big Government got poked in the eye today…by liberals and the tea party.  Strange bed-fellows but I’ll take it.  The House Republicans thought they could pass a non-controversial extension of some of the worst abuses of the Patriot Act today.  It failed to garner the 2/3rd majority it needed because all of the Democrats voted against it and a pile of Freshmen Representatives voted against it.  Tea Partiers if you will.

I believe the newly elected Congressmen, I don’t buy it as much from the Liberals.  Well, maybe from Dennis Kucinich who has always railed against it.  The WaPo article is here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/08/AR2011020806345.html?hpid=topnews

I have two goals.  One to point out the two-faced nature of politics where the same Congressmen will vote for the same essential bill a couple of years previously (because they were in power) and then vote against it because now they’re not.  That is the Democratic story by and large here.  The Republicans do it too.  Kubuki theatre, its all window dressing and its shows Congress’s general lack of conviction, backbone, and principles.

The bottom line is that the Patriot Act IS a woeful invasion of our civil liberties, specifically the 4th Amendments’ protections against search and seizures.  This thing needs to fail again and again.  I am glad to see that at least in an easy, early test the Freshmen Congressmen voted how they said they would. 

The question is, can they hold up and grow in strength?

-G.S.